Quantile causal mediation analysis allowing longitudinal data


M-A Bind, TJ VanderWeele, JD Schwartz, and BA Coull. 2017. “Quantile causal mediation analysis allowing longitudinal data.” Stat Med, 36, 26, Pp. 4182-4195.


Mediation analysis has mostly been conducted with mean regression models. With this approach modeling means, formulae for direct and indirect effects are based on changes in means, which may not capture effects that occur in units at the tails of mediator and outcome distributions. Individuals with extreme values of medical endpoints are often more susceptible to disease and can be missed if one investigates mean changes only. We derive the controlled direct and indirect effects of an exposure along percentiles of the mediator and outcome using quantile regression models and a causal framework. The quantile regression models can accommodate an exposure-mediator interaction and random intercepts to allow for longitudinal mediator and outcome. Because DNA methylation acts as a complex "switch" to control gene expression and fibrinogen is a cardiovascular factor, individuals with extreme levels of these markers may be more susceptible to air pollution. We therefore apply this methodology to environmental data to estimate the effect of air pollution, as measured by particle number, on fibrinogen levels through a change in interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) methylation. We estimate the controlled direct effect of air pollution on the qth percentile of fibrinogen and its indirect effect through a change in the pth percentile of IFN-γ methylation. We found evidence of a direct effect of particle number on the upper tail of the fibrinogen distribution. We observed a suggestive indirect effect of particle number on the upper tail of the fibrinogen distribution through a change in the lower percentiles of the IFN-γ methylation distribution.
Last updated on 07/26/2021